India calls for deeper ties with Sri Lanka as China looms

05/12/2017

COLOMBO, May 12: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on Friday declared his desire for a "quantum jump" in relations with Sri Lanka, as New Delhi jostles with regional rival Beijing for influence in the island nation.

India had always considered its smaller neighbour to be within its sphere of influence but watched Sri Lanka drift closer to China under former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Modi's visit to Sri Lanka — his second since coming to power in 2014 — is being seen as New Delhi's attempt to win back support and counter Beijing's push for closer ties with the Indian Ocean nation.

"I believe we are at a moment of great opportunity in our ties with Sri Lanka. An opportunity to achieve a quantum jump in our partnership across different fields," Modi told a Buddhist conference in Colombo.

His comments came as Sri Lanka rebuffed a Chinese request to dock a submarine at one of its ports.

Chinese-backed projects soared under Rajapaksa, who relied heavily on Beijing for economic and diplomatic support as Western nations threatened his administration with sanctions over atrocities committed during the decades-long civil war which ended in 2009.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising to review Chinese-funded projects signed by his predecessor and rebuild ties with India.

PM Modi pledged India's commitment to their "Sri Lankan brothers and sisters" and the "indivisible" ties between the two neighbours.

"We will continue to invest in driving positive change and economic growth to deepen our development co-operation," he said.

As Modi touched down in Colombo for a two-day visit on Thursday, a top Sri Lankan defence official confirmed Beijing had been denied permission for a port call by a Chinese submarine.

In Beijing, China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuan said they were aware of the reports, but stressed both sides maintained "good cooperation".

"China and Sri Lanka enjoy good friendship," he said.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office announced he will travel to Beijing on Saturday to participate in China's maritime silk route initiative of economic diplomacy.

"Attention will be paid to the collective benefits for the countries participating in the initiative of President Xi Jinping," Wickremesinghe's office said in a statement on Friday.

Pro-China Rajapaksa's political allies had called for a black flag protest during Modi's visit to Sri Lanka, accusing India of trying to grab land in a strategic port district.

But the former president sought a meeting with PM Modi on Thursday night and the two had a "cordial" discussion, confirmed Indian diplomats who provided no further details.

PM Modi flew to the island's tea growing central district of Nuwara Eliya on Friday to open an India-gifted hospital and address tens of thousands of plantation workers of Indian origin.

The nearly one million ethnic Tamils in central Sri Lanka are descendants of indentured labour brought to work in coffee, rubber and tea plantations by British colonial rulers in the 19th century.

"As some of you may have heard, I have a special association with tea," he told workers, referring to his modest beginnings selling tea in Gujarat when he was a child.

"It is a tremendous honour to be the first Indian Prime Minister ever to visit this beautiful region of Sri Lanka."

He promised another 10,000 houses in addition to the 4,000 that India is currently funding for ethnic Tamil plantation workers who are among the poorest in the country of 21 million.

 

 

 


He left on Friday evening after receiving a special blessing at the temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist shrine, in the town of Kandy.(TOI)

Related News

India, France ink €7.87 billion agreement for 36 Rafales

NEW DELHI, 23 Sept : India and France on Friday concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of €7.87 billion, the first fighter aircraft deal since the purchase of Sukhois from Russia in the late 90’s. The deal was signed by Defence…

Let's fight battle to build a better nation and see who wins: PM Modi to Pakistan

Mohua Chatterjee| TNN | Updated: Sep 24 : KOZHIKODE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday broke his silence on the Uri terror attack and tore into Pakistan for its role in supporting terror in the region. At his first public rally since the Uri incident, PM Modi challenged Pakistan - not at conventional war - but in…

Terror as state policy is war crime, Shah tells Pakistan

KOZHIKODE,September 25 : The BJP on Sunday reinforced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to Pakistan, with party president tabling a statement on the terrorist attack on Uri, positing it as one in a decade-and-a-half of terror strikes against India by Pakistan. BJP president Amit Shah described Pakistan as a country…

Pakistan not getting support in UN on surgical strikes issue: Akbaruddin

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 1 : India has said that Pakistan approaching the United Nations on the issue of surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the LoC has not found any resonance in the world body and rejected claims that the UN mission monitoring ceasefire “has not directly observed” any firing…

Pakistan still in anaesthesia after surgery, says Parrikar

DEHRADUN/NEW DELHI, Oct, 2 : Pakistan is like a patient who has been given anaesthesia and doesn’t know that surgery has already been done on him, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Saturday. The Minister’s remarks are first comments from a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) following the…

Baramulla: It was a terror attack, not a case of friendly fire, says Indian BSF

NEW DELHI, Oct. 4 : The Indian BSF denied reports of "friendly fire" resulting in casualties during the terror attack on the Baramulla camp even as speculation swirled about tense nerves leading to firing late on Sunday night. The border force said terrorists struck at a joint Army-BSF camp and this claimed the life of one…

Video

Find Us on Facebook

From Social

Tokyo (Japan), Sept. 13: A new leadership assumed responsibilities at the Non Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA), Japan on Sunday. The new office bearers took oath of office and secrecy after a long fought battle resulting from dissatisfaction from those who…

Lama led officials assume responsibility in NRNA Japan